The Knowledge Media Institute is the Open University's flagship research centre. It was established in 1995 to create and study near-term future technologies for the ultimate benefit of OU students, staff, industrial sponsors and local and global learning communities.
"Our research addresses fundamental questions at the core of learning and knowledge," said Jerzy Grzeda, business and operations manager for the institute. "What do people know? How do they know it?"
Some 40 researchers work at the institute, which also carries out contract work for companies and charities including Sun Microsystems, IBM, Apple Computers, Andersen Consulting, BP, BT, the Gatsby Foundation and the Royal National Institute for the Blind.
Current projects include "Stadium", a suite of software tools that aims to stage large-scale live events while giving people linked by the internet a sense of being there. For example, students could watch a lecture on their computer screens, hear the questions posed by the lecture audience and ask the lecturer questions through email. A sister project, "Lyceum", aims to replace text interactions with the spoken word, and
everyone present would be able to hear the speaker's voice.
Other work includes an intelligent meeting organiser that emails all those invited to a meeting and identifies the best date and time. "It is a nice spin-off for staff at the OU to use," said Mr Grzeda.